Where was Captain Smith at the time of collision?

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graham pickles

Guest
Hi All,
I have to appologise as I got it wrong.
In a previous message I said Oliver stated that Capt Smith was on the bridge at the time of the collision. Sorry he did not say this at all I wrote it down wrong and apologise for the mis leading statment
regards
graham
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
Wow!

I thought I had gone off in left field, but there seems to be support for my speculation. However, speculation...no matter how popular...should not be confused with the truth. Still, I thank everyone for what has been posted and I look forward to seeing more facts and/or opinons on this subject. I would love to clear it up with enough finality for a general consensus. (Which means that "Titanic Uncertainty Principle can never be totally overcome.)

-- David G. Brown
 
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Erik Wood

Member
I know that a lot has been written in other threads about Hitchens suitability as a leader. However I am not all that sure that his leadership skills (or lack there of) really has any bearing on the situation itself. I think that Boxhall and Hitchens where both placed in a situation where one had to defend his actions (Boxhall) and the other who saw and heard everything had to be told what to say and what not to say in order to keep White Stars appearance .

Boxhall in my mind had one thing that he had to hide. The fact that he claims he was no where on the bridge. This question really isn't delved into I don't think in any of the inquiries and is a question as a Captain I have asked myself many a time. Why would someone assigned to that watch NOT be on the bridge when he knew as well as the Senior Watch Officer knew that ice was in the vicinity. Boxhall most likely knew that the lookouts did not have there glasses. So under what circumstances was he not at his post. Being an extra set of eyes on the bridge when they where needed most.

If we go by Murdoch's character alone one could assume that he was very vigilant. I don't think that he would have allowed Boxhall to slip away from the bridge especially with less then a half hour to go before being relieved. So then where is he, and why isn't he at his post? If he had to use the little boys room he could have waited that extra 25 minutes. If we assume that Boxhall was on the bridge in some form i.e the bridge wing or somewhere close to that we take away a couple of key elements.

1. This would give Titanic 4 sets of eyes trained forward looking for disaster.

2. It would also show that Smith or Murdoch where in no way neglegent in there duties that night as it would appear the testimonies think.

Then you have Smith. A man with over 30 years of Command experience. A man who had devoted his life to the sea. A man who knew that his ship would be entering harms way. A man who knew the temperture had dropped dramaticallly. A man who may have been planning for some big showing the next day. He was most likely planning for the next day in his chart room AWAKE. He most likely heard Murdochs helm order and then ran to the bridge. As I stated above he probably didn't really have a active role in the decisions being made at the time. As it should have been. He had no idea what the situation was and since the appearance of urgency was about he let the man who knew what was going on handle the situation and then asked for what had happened.

The more and more we debate this the more and more I think that the whole theory of Smith Sleeping was made up. By those who had something to hide. It gives the story a almost romantic end. This same story doesn't account for 1 hour of time. This same story doesn't really describe with any clarity what decisions where made. But the story remains clear that a mammouth of a liner went to the bottom and 1500 souls went with it. To me it also points to one man lost command of his ship as the second a certian other man step on it. And it further points out to me that Titanic was sinking the second she left the dock in Southampton. Maybe not literaly but definitly figureitivly.

As any Captain can tell you a ship with two commanders is a doomed ship. It wasn't until it was crystal clear the ship was sinking that Smith regained full control of the ships operation. I think in some ways Smith had probably put his foot down on certain things and then felt the need to cow tow in order to preserve his relationship with his employer. That may have been the demise of the ship.

Sorry, I kind of went off on a rant. Well I will leave you all now and go finish reading that RINA report.

Erik
 
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Earl Chapman

Member
Eric wrote:

Quote:

Why would someone assigned to that watch NOT be on the bridge when he knew as well as the Senior Watch Officer knew that ice was in the vicinity. Boxhall most likely knew that the lookouts did not have there glasses. So under what circumstances was he not at his post. Being an extra set of eyes on the bridge when they where needed most.





Hi Eric,

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Boxhall was not at his post. Don't forget that Boxhall was a junior officer and was not expected to act as lookout during his tour of duty unless specifically ordered by the officer of the watch. Lightoller best summed up the duties of junior officer as follows:


Quote:

(the junior officers) have various duties to perform, taking the various parts of the ship; sometimes in the wheelhouse; and at different periods one has to go the whole rounds of the ship and see that everything is in order.





Also, Boxhall had other specific duties assigned to him, namely making most of the navigation calculations. According to his testimony, he was "inside the chart room working up stellar observation" from the time he came on duty at 8:00 p.m. Apparently, this required frequent visits to the bridge, perhaps to check and obtain figures from the ship's log. Even when on the bridge during these visits, he was not expected to act as lookout. So Boxhall was just doing what he was supposed to be doing, and not shirking his responsibilities. But some blame <FONT COLOR="ff0000">could be put on Murdoch for not ordering either Moody or Boxhall to assist him as lookout, or indeed on Captain Smith for not ordering additional lookouts.

Earl Chapman
Montreal, Canada
 
David G. Brown

David G. Brown

RIP
Boxhall had apparently completed resolving Lightoller's star sights just after Captain Smith came on the bridge about 9 p.m. Boxhall described the captain "pricking" off the ship's position on a chart.

Regarding lookout, we are back to the distinct difference between being a "lookout" as a job and "looking out" as a responsibility. As a licensed officer, Boxhall was presumed to be more reliable than a rating with regard to spotting dangers and taking action.

If Boxhall had been in the chartroom, he we would presume his actions to be part of the normal routine of the bridge watch. But, he claimed to be walking forward on the officer's prominade--a place that is not normally frequented by any officer on watch.

There is a whole thread on Boxhall at 11:40 p.m., so we don't need to rehash it here. However, it does seem that the fourth officer was "inventing" a reason why he had no knowledge of running into the iceberg. That avoided his having to testify as to what really happened.

--David G. Brown
 
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Erik Wood

Member
Captain Brown and Mr. Chapman,

While I most obviously agree with Captain Brown on all points made on his part I must also like to ask why wouldn't Murdoch has asked for those extra set of eyes on his watch. Who are the two people who lived to tell the story. Both of them had reasons to hide things.

Erik
 
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Aaron_2016

Guest
Does anyone know where exactly Captain Smith was from the moment Fleet rang the bell to the moment of the collision? Was he within hearing range to know that something was happening and immediately find out?


Hichens said - "We repeat our course to the officers, at sea, every quarter hour, and every so often that we are always on our course. The Captain comes around three or four times, every five minutes, say."

Lightoller said at around 9:30pm the Captain spoke to him and said - "If it becomes at all doubtful let me know at once; I will be just inside." Lightoller felt the collision, got up and looked towards the bridge. He saw the Captain. He was asked:

Q - Was the Captain dressed?
A - That I could not say. I do not think there was any doubt about his being dressed, because in the ordinary conditions, as the Captain said, he would be just inside, he would not turn in under those conditions. He would just remain in his navigating room where his navigating instruments are: chart books, etc., where he would be handy to pop out on the bridge.




Bridgeplan




What I don't understand is why did it take the Captain so long to find out what happened?

Let's assume the Captain is close by.
- Bell rings in the crows nest alerting the bridge that something is ahead
- Fleet rings the telephone
- Moody answers it and yells to Murdoch "Iceberg ahead, sir!"
- Murdoch runs to the engine telegraph and rings it
- Murdoch orders "hard a-starboard!!!"
- Moody repeats the order "hard a-starboard!!!"
- Hichens tells Moody the helm is hard over.
- Moody tells Murdoch the helm is hard over.
- Hichens turns the ship 2 points which takes about 37 more seconds to achieve
- The iceberg collides
- Murdoch closes the watertight doors
- Finally Captain Smith enters the wheelhouse and asks Murdoch what happened.


Something here doesn't make sense. Fleet told Major Peuchen that he did not get a reply on the telephone. That would mean nobody yelled "Iceberg ahead!". Hichens heard the engine telegraph ring, and according to the engine room survivors the collision occurred just "two seconds" after it rang. Hichens also was heard calling out to another lifeboat and asking them if they knew who was on duty during the collision. This puts doubt on Murdoch and Moody giving any helm orders at all before the collision. The scenario would be as follows.

- Fleet rings bell and uses the telephone
- Nobody answers
- Murdoch runs to the telegraph
- Two seconds later the iceberg collides
- Murdoch runs into the wheelhouse and closes the watertight doors.
- Captain Smith enters the wheelhouse and asks what happened.



.
 
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Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
and according to the engine room survivors the collision occurred just "two seconds" after it rang.
You have to stop believing every little detail that someone says Aaron. People in general make horrible eyewitnesses, especially when it comes to subjective details such as time durations and distances. That same survivor who said the collision happened 2 seconds after he heard telegraph bells ring, and who also gave very detailed time accounts of the engine movements after, also was asked about the watertight doors closing:

3734. Was anything done about the watertight compartments? - Yes.
3735. Were they closed? - In the meantime.
3736. How soon after the ship struck was that done? - Three minutes.

Considering it takes only about 1/2 a minute for those doors to drop shut (and that was by observation on Olympic), and considering Murdoch was seen at the WTD switch by Olliver when he entered the bridge just as the ship struck, it tells me that Dillon's timing estimates cannot be relied upon.

By the way, the WTD switch was not in the wheelhouse, it was mounted closed the wheel on the navigating bridge.

On more thing to consider was Hichens' account of Smith coming out of his quarters:

1025. Tell us what you heard in the way of command? - Just about a minute, I suppose, after the collision, the Captain rushed out of his room and asked Mr. Murdoch what was that, and he said, “An iceberg, Sir,” and he said, “Close the watertight door.”
The Commissioner: Wait a minute. A minute after the collision, Captain Smith -
1026. (The Attorney-General.) Came out of his room on to the bridge do you mean? - Yes, Sir; he passed through the wheelhouse on to the bridge.
1027. He rushed out of his room through the wheelhouse on to the bridge? - Yes.
1028. And asked Murdoch, “What is that?” - Yes.
1029. And Murdoch said, “An iceberg.” Is that right? - Yes.
1030. Mr. Murdoch said “An iceberg,” and then? - The Captain immediately gave him orders to close the watertight doors. He said, “They are already closed.” He immediately then sent for the carpenter to sound the ship.
The Commissioner: The Captain gave orders to close the watertight doors?
1031. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. Mr. Murdoch said, “They are already closed.” Do you know where they were closed from? - Yes, the fore-part of the bridge.

Hichens also was asked about the time from 3 bells to the time Murdoch gave his helm orders:
973. How long was that [3 gongs from the crow's nest] before the order came “Hard-a-starboard”? - Well, as near as I can tell you, about half a minute.

That also agrees, more or less, with what Fleet said:
Senator FLETCHER. How long were you at the telephone?
Mr. FLEET. I suppose half a minute.

What seemed later as a 1/2 minute could have been as little as 15 to 20 seconds, but if Olliver was still on the compass platform when those 3 bells were struck, and if he just entered the bridge as the ship struck, then there was at lease 45 to 50 seconds from 3 bells to when the ship struck just considering the distance he had to walk to get from the compass platform to the bridge.

Smith could have been lying down in his settee dozing off, or perhaps he was in his lavatory indisposed when the main events started.

This also begs the question as to where Boxhall really was during all that time.
 
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Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Hello Aaron.

I understand that Captain Smith was in his day room or somewhere in his quarters. He would not have closed his door but would have drawn the curtain over it. That was the practice at sea then and for all the years I was there.
The captain may have been reclining on his settee.. day bed...fully clothed. He may even have been dozing and would therefore not have heard the 3 bells. However, if he was awake, he would have heard them. In that case, he would think little of it since such a sound was part of life during the hours of darkness. 3 bells simply meant "something seen ahead". 99.9% of the time, on such a crystal clear night, that meant a ship's lights on the horizon or even over the horizon. Smith had a very experienced man on the bridge and would have had full confidence in him.
The first indication to Smith that something was wrong was the simultaneous sounds and sensations of engine room telegraph and contact with the berg. That would cause him to hurry through the wheelhouse and ask "What was that?". So you see, here was not such a very long interval between when he knew something was amiss and when he found out what it was.

By the way, Lookout Fleet swore that he got an immediate response to his phone call to the bridge and that when he turned from the phone, the ship had already started to turn left.
 
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A

Aaron_2016

Guest
Thanks. When I was on a tour boat off the Isle of Es Vedra it appeared we were heading straight for it, but it was just an optical illusion, as we approached I could see we were safely passing by close to one side, but from a distance it appeared we were heading straight for it, and gave us the illusion we were turning as it passed down safely one side.


I personally don't believe the "hard a-starboard" order was given at all because I don't see any time for it or any call for it to be given, but it sounds good at an Inquiry. Murdoch knew from experience aboard the RMS Arabic the dangers of swinging the stern into a passing object. Olliver did not hear the order given and had no knowledge of it, yet he was on the bridge when Hichens was given the order "hard a-port" and he saw him carry out the order. If the wheel was already hard over prior to this, wouldn't Olliver have realized it was hard over the opposite way when he saw Hichens obey the order "hard a-port" as he would have to turn the wheel all the way back amidships and then hard over the other way?

Boxhall said he heard the bell from his cabin, immediately got up and while approaching the bridge he heard the engine telegraph and the order "hard a-starboard" and felt the collision when he was just opposite the Captain's quarters.



Boxhall's movements.


Bridgeplan1



He apparently heard this "hard a-starboard" order after the telegraph rang but before he felt the collision. That certainly doesn't give enough time for Hichens to turn the wheel 2 points to port. Hichens also stated that Olliver was next to him when this order was given, but we know he was not. One has to question whether this order was given at all. What is remarkable is that Boxhall in his 1962 interview could remember the smallest details that night, yet he made no mention of the "hard a-starboard" order. Something very odd about it. Plus the fact that if Boxhall was on the bridge at the same time Captain Smith was and heard Murdoch telling the captain that they had struck an iceberg, why did Boxhall still apparently not know what they had struck after hearing Murdoch?

Q - Did you know what had occurred?
A - No, not at all. I heard the sixth officer say what it was.
Q - What did he say that it was?
A - He said we had struck an iceberg.


.
 
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Georges Guay

Georges Guay

Member
Smith … was in his lavatory indisposed when the main events started.

This also begs the question as to where Boxhall really was during all that time.

Was Boxhall in Smith’s lavatory helping him with his indisposition? o_O
 
privatedad1334

privatedad1334

Member
Does anyone have some idea of where the captain spent his last moments alive though, as the ship sank?
 
Georges Guay

Georges Guay

Member
Joseph Boxhall Radio Interview, October 1962
Transcribed by Capt. Charles B. Weeks and Cathy Akers-Jordan

When I got to the bridge, and the Captain had evidently arrived about the same moment, and I heard him say to Murdoch, What is the matter? What have you struck? He said, we've struck an iceberg Sir. He said, I'm going Full Speed Astern, Sir, on the Port Engine. She swung her head around towards Port; she was on the swing and that's why she was torn underneath. She was penetrated in six compartments.

I'm going Full Speed Astern, Sir, on the Port Engine... Speculations will never end !
 
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